Lessons that Last a Lifetime in the SPICE/Stanford–Waseda Intensive Course

Undergraduate student Ninjin Oyun-Erdene reflects on her experience participating in the SPICE/Stanford–Waseda joint course.
Ninjin Oyun-Erdene Ninjin Oyun-Erdene on the Waseda University campus; photo courtesy Ninjin Oyun-Erdene.

The following is a guest article written by Ninjin Oyun-Erdene, a student from Mongolia studying at Waseda University. Oyun-Erdene enrolled in the SPICE/Stanford–Waseda Intensive Course on Diversity and Global Citizenship, which was organized by SPICE and Waseda’s School of Social Sciences and taught by Meiko Kotani. Students from China, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Japan brought diverse perspectives to the course.

This March, I had a remarkable opportunity to participate in the 2024 SPICE/Stanford–Waseda Intensive Course on Diversity and Global Citizenship: Bridging Perspectives for an Inclusive Society, jointly organized by the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education of Stanford University and the School of Social Sciences of Waseda University.

My participation in this year’s SPICE/Stanford–Waseda Intensive Course was a transformative experience, filled with highly engaging discussions, diverse perspectives, and insightful lectures that challenged my preconceptions and broadened my understanding of global social issues.

Firstly, the sessions delivered by distinguished lecturers transcended sectoral boundaries and offered valuable insights into complex topics. For example, as someone who is keen on historical studies, I was fascinated by the lecture of Professor Jie Liu from Waseda University titled “Can Historical Awareness Transcend National Borders?” The session not only provided thought-provoking insights, but also encouraged participants to critically and analytically examine our understanding of history. Discussing various aspects of history with its flaws in research and interpretation challenged me to consider alternate viewpoints and rethink my assumptions. This process led me to acquire the skill to construct my perspective towards historical facts and their interpretations. Following the lecture, a group discussion with representative students from Japan and Indonesia allowed me to rethink the interconnectedness of history and the significance of global citizenship.

Another characteristic that made this year’s SPICE/Stanford–Waseda Intensive Course unique was interacting with peers from different cultural backgrounds. This not only enriched the discussions but also provided a unique learning environment where diverse perspectives were valued and respected. Allowing us to delve deeper into the topic of diversity and global citizenship, we had the privilege to participate in lectures by Dr. Gary Mukai and Professor Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu from Stanford University on the topic of “What Does It Mean to Be a Global Citizen?” and “Diversity in Japan,” respectively, on the following days of our course.

Their lectures prompted me to reconsider Professor Jie Liu’s emphasis on appreciating the importance of historical understanding and how it further leads to cultural sensitivity and empathy among different cultural backgrounds. Their stories of growing up in a multicultural environment, seeking a sense of belonging to the community, and grappling with self-identity, external pressure, and societal expectations have left a profound impression on me. These are what I believe every international student has experienced during their lifetime or might experience in another form during their pursuits on a global stage. On the other hand, I realized that being exposed to different perspectives, traditions, and cultural values is one of the significant factors in broadening one’s understanding of the world and fostering empathy. As Professor Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu stated during his lecture, I have now come to believe that diversity is definitely a strength to the community. Another important takeaway from the encouraging dialogue with them is the idea that everybody has something to contribute to this world; with a more open and inclusive environment, people can contribute to the greatest extent they can.

Ninjin Oyun-Erdene in classroom

Following his lecture, my peers and I exchanged ideas, shared experiences, and learned from one another, instructor Meiko Kotani, and instructors at Waseda University. A key moment in our discussion came from Professor Shukuko Koyama of Waseda University, as she shared her perspective on the idea of “Only you define your own identity and worth.” The meaningful dialogue has played an instrumental role in enhancing my understanding of the complexities of our interconnected world, and has made me understand that one cannot limit his/her potential in life. 

Lastly, collaborating with students from different backgrounds allowed me to broaden my social and professional networks, creating lasting connections that extend beyond the duration of the course. One such opportunity was a fruitful discussion session with university students from the U.S. through Zoom. Sharing experiences and ideas—ranging from our daily lives in Japan and the U.S. to complex topics, such as how cross-cultural understanding is practiced in different regions of the world—provided a unique experience for all of us.

On the last day of the SPICE/Stanford–Waseda Intensive Course, we were given the opportunity to make a presentation about the social issues that we deeply care about and offer potential solutions to them. It was remarkable that one of the students, during his team’s presentation on the significance of mental health and strategies for fostering inclusivity within society, openly shared his personal journey of overcoming mental health challenges. His courage and vulnerability were truly uplifting, demonstrating the profound impact of addressing mental health issues within our communities.

Overall, my experience in the SPICE/Stanford–Waseda Intensive Course has provided me with invaluable insights into my perception of the world and has helped me to enhance my skills necessary to become a global citizen. The diverse array of lecturers, staff, and fellow students, along with their engaging dialogue, were instrumental in making this learning experience highly enriching and insightful. Through meaningful interactions and thought-provoking discussions, I have gained a deeper understanding of global issues and have been inspired to contribute positively to creating a more inclusive and interconnected society.

I firmly believe that the lessons I learned during the course will endure for a lifetime. The insights gained, perspectives shared, and skills developed have not only enriched my understanding of global citizenship but have also left a lasting impact on my personal and professional growth.

As I continue on my journey, I am confident that the knowledge and experiences gained at the SPICE/Stanford–Waseda Intensive Course will continue to shape my actions and decisions, guiding me towards a more inclusive and globally minded approach to life.

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